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Oregon—Lighthouses of the Coast
There are a total of nine lighthouses strung along the Oregon coastline. All but three of those are located south of the town of Newport. We passed by the fourth one, Yaquina Light, on our way to CapePerpetua. More were to follow. In fact, the fifth one which lay just south of CapePerpetua, was to be the next stop along our coastline tour. It was a significant one, according to Melinda. Several guide books mention it as being one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world. True or not, how could we just pass it by?
The northern Oregon coast is better known, having some justly famous locations. CannonBeach with its landmark Haystack Rock, is just one of those places. But the southern coast has been said to have many draws of its own . . . equally great scenery and less crowded by far. Miles of sand dunes along the central coast give way to rocky headlands, hidden coves, dramatic cliffs and long sandy beaches. The most southerly part of the coast is known as Oregon’s Banana Belt, as the weather is generally a bit warmer and milder than what is found further north. But would the windy conditions slacken down a bit? We wondered.
The CarlG.WashburneState Park was the spot we chose to set up camp after leaving the Yachats area. Located just an easy hike from the ocean, the campground nestled within the deep and dense forest that cloaked the headlands along this stretch of the coast. So thick was the forest overstory that sunlight barely penetrated through. It was quite an interesting environment, and had the added benefit of acting as a great windblock. With full hookups and nicely spaced sites, we knew we would like this spot. Chris unloaded the chairs and got down to serious enjoyment.
Not one to sit around for long, if at all, Melinda wanted to check out the nearby beach. Located on the other side of the highway, a trail twisting through the coastline trees led over there. As soon as we left the shelter of those trees, we were hit with an onslaught of high winds—it gave new meaning to the phrase “windswept beach”! And it was a cold wind that blew from out of the north, despite the sunny conditions.
Littered with driftwood with a backdrop of sandy dunes, in the distance we could see the fog-enshrouded headland that was our next destination and the reason that this particular place had been chosen.
Heceta Head was less than a dozen miles south of CapePerpetua, and it wasn’t just the allure of a full hookup campsite that impelled us to move on after just a couple of days spent at CapePerpetua. That famous lighthouse stood on a high promontory just a couple of miles away from where we’d be camping. The opportunity was ripe for her to add another notch to her lighthouse belt. Even though the afternoon fog had moved in, covering everything in a gray mist, we drove down to see what we could learn about this famous light.
Sitting 200 feet above the ocean on a forested slope of the 1,000-foot-high high Heceta Head, it is still an active light. First illuminated in 1894, its light can be seen 21 miles from land. It is rated as the strongest light on the Oregon coast. A half-mile trail led up the side of the cliff which we promptly took. These paths through Oregon forests are sure nothing like what we have in Indiana.
She didn’t even attempt to take the far-off photo of the lighthouse situated on its rocky precipice. Early the next morning, again under foggy conditions, she took off. It made her day to have the fog dissipate shortly after arriving at her preselected perch. The precarious position of Heceta Head lighthouse surely contributes to its famous reputation.
After fulfilling her goal, we were free to enjoy the afternoon. We took a drive south to the quaint town of Florence and had a pleasant time. After checking out some shops, we ate lunch at a local’s place that specialized in fresh-caught fish.
On the way back to camp, we passed some informational spots. We’ve seen several of these particular signs posted all along the coast highway. Once again reminding us how far away from home we really are.
There was also a wayside featuring a short trail that led to a sphagnum bog. It happened to inhabited by the coast’s most fascinating plant, the cobra lily or pitcher plant. It is a flesh-eating plant, whose diet consists mainly of small bugs. Growing a foot or two tall, standing close together, they don’t look like any plant we’ve ever seen. We could easily tell why they are known as a cobra plant. The red “flower” hanging below its “chin” is the enticement that draws in the bugs.
That last two interesting sights we passed were more on the quirky side. Colorful and unique, they both proved irresistible not to photograph. More roadside attractions found in this interesting place.
Tomorrow we move on again, still heading south along the coast. More scenic wonders are just a few miles away . . .
. . . and another lighthouse passed enroute.
Chris and Melinda